January 16, 2014

Lerman's 14 For '14 Day Ten: DOG POUND And The Terrors Of Life In The Hole

"Dead.  Dead.  Dead."
I would not do well in prison.  Of this, I have no doubt.  I think I could handle solitude pretty well - with nowhere to go and no wifi-based distractions, I'd probably end up doing a lot of reading and perhaps even some long-form writing.  But aside from the frequent threat of physical violence, I think the psychological pressure of incarceration would really wear me down over time.  I'm generally pretty adaptable and I tend to let a lot of stuff pretty much roll off of me, but I'm certain that serving any appreciable amount of time in prison would have a profound effect on my personality going forward; much like (I imagine) going to war, I'd simply come out the other side a completely different person.

That's the thing that struck me most about Dog Pound, the story of three teenage boys serving time in a youth correctional facility.  They suffer gross indignities at the hands of a trio of older kids while the guards are generally indifferent to their situation.  Eventually the boys push back and, for a time, usurp their peer oppressors and enjoy the relative good life.  But you know it simply can't last and when these guys fall, they fall HARD.  I couldn't help but wonder which character I would most resemble if I too had been incarcerated at such an impressionable age.  I accept the fact that I would certainly get pushed around and beaten up, although I'd hope that my generally non-confrontational nature and head-down tendencies would at least partially insulate me from violence.  Nonetheless, it seems inevitable that I'd eventually get backed into a corner (physically and/or emotionally) and end up with more than a few bruises.  How would I react to such a situation is the really intriguing factor.  Would I become dominated by anger or despair?  

(Spoilers ensue.)

Butch (Adam Butcher) is already a product of the system, a strong and vaguely psychopathic kid who refuses to back down from a challenge and often strikes out with uncompromising lethality.  He's intelligent to be sure, but has resigned himself to a dead end future full of rage.  Rather than try to turn his life around, he's content to play king of the hill, determined to keep himself from ever becoming a victim.  Given enough time and punishment, could I eventually morph into such an individual?  Pushed far enough to the edge with no hope of redemption I'm sure I could turn just as dark and violent as Butch, however it doesn't feel like a natural fit.  I'd likely end up shivved in my sleep.

Instead I suspect that Davis (Shane Kippel) is a more accurate barometer for my own hypothetical imprisonment.  Davis is a charismatic ladies man, easy going and friendly.  He gets pushed around and intimidated, but he somehow manages to mostly shrug it all off, entertaining his bunkmates (it's a juvenile facility so they don't live in individual cells) with late night tales of his various sexual conquests.  Most of them are probably total bullshit, but who cares?  The kid is a legend and you just can't help but like him.  Of course that means he's doomed to suffer the most brutal fate of all.  Trapped alone in the laundry room, a typical beatdown suddenly and unexpectedly turn into a harrowing rape scene.  That's obviously a scarring ordeal, but for a teenage boy whose entire personality is built on his sexual identity...he's left a broken, shell of a person who sees no better alternative than to empty his veins in the middle of the night.

That's not to say I think I'd kill myself if I went to prison, merely that I would likely turn inward rather than face off against my tormentors.  To be honest, I'm not sure if I could really bring myself to commit suicide.  It's certainly something I've contemplated before, but only as an intellectual exercise and not out of honest desire.  I don't necessarily begrudge anyone for pursuing the ultimate end to true physical suffering or psychological pain.  I've known one person in my life who's committed suicide, the mother of a friend who had previously passed away from cancer.  I would never presume to understand the depth of her grief and sorrow so I couldn't possibly judge whether her emotional state justified her extreme actions, but I do believe she was in serious pain and I'm glad she was able to find relief.  My only frustration with her decision lay in the fact that she left behind a husband and a young daughter and, putting myself in their shoes, I can't imagine how I might handle the self-inflicted death of either my wife or my mother, just as I can't imagine abandoning Jamie and any children that might lie in our future.  There seems to be an element of selfishness there, but then again is it really selfish simply to desire peace?  It's easy to ponder this stuff from my current position in life, happily married and living without any major hardship.  In the face of crippling depression or imminent and prolonged physical agony, my opinions might change real quick.

Mostly it's the fear of losing my humanity, of being trapped in a world that slowly robs me of everything that makes me...me.  That's the thing that terrifies me most of all, and why I hope to never experience anything like the events of Dog Pound.


What's The Connection?  Down Terrace began with guys getting out of prison, while Dog Pound starts with guys going into prison.

Up Next: Babe: Pig In The City

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Title: Dog Pound
Director: Kim Chapiron
Starring: Adam Butcher, Shane Kippel, Mateo Morales, Slim Twig, Taylor Poulin, Lawrence Bayne
Year Of Release: 2010
Viewing Method: Netflix Instant